Crane-related accidents are the major cause of deaths, injuries, and damages in construction sites, which affect construction workers, bystanders, and property. In fact, studies indicate that approximately 323 crane-related deaths were reported in 1992-2006 including 12 multiple death incidents, which resulted into 28 deaths. On the other hand, additional studies show that the causes of crane-related deaths/injuries/damages include crane contact with overhead power lines, collapsing cranes, and people being struck by booms/jibs/cranes/crane loads or caught in-between collapsing cranes among other causes (McCann, Gittleman, & Watters, n.d.; Safety Online, 2000; Ogando, 2008; U.S. Department of Labor, 2005). Therefore, it is apparent that crane-related deaths are caused by various aspects of crane maintenance and operations on or off the construction sites. This essay highlights the role of equipment failure and human error as the major causes of crane accidents.
Equipment failure is one of the major causes of crane-related incidents reported in different parts of the United States. According to Hauser, Lewis, & Rhome (1998), equipment failure caused 17 out of 34 crane-related incidents reported in 1995-1998. Here, different types of equipments were implicated in various failures, fatalities, and damage to property as a result of failures. For instance, wire ropes were associated with 3 failures, which caused one fatality and minor damages to property. On the other hand, boom equipments were associated with 3 failures and caused no fatalities, but major damages to the booms. Furthermore, different types of equipment malfunctions involving crane pedestals, booms, slings, line slippages, oil storage tanks, and crane hooks were implicated in different crane-related incidents, which caused major or minor injuries to construction workers/bystanders and damages to the equipment or property. More specifically, equipment failures can be associated with improper or poor maintenance and incomplete or lack of inspection before commencing operations (Hauser et al., 1998; McCann et al., n.d.; Safety Online, 2000).
On the other hand, human errors form the core of the major causes of crane-related incidents in the United States. In fact, Hauser et al. (1998) note that in 1998, about six crane accidents were caused by human errors in crane operations. For instance, improper or poor crane operation techniques were implicated in three crane incidents, which resulted into major damages to crane booms and equipment failure or collapse. In yet another incident, poor communication between the crane operator and the rigger caused one of the crane slings to break off the valve resulting into significant damage to the accumulator bottle, which released pressure that blew the rigger to his death. Furthermore, in 1996, inappropriate communication between the crane operator and workers on a boat caused a major incident, which damaged the diesel transporter tank resulting into an oil spill. Therefore, in analyzing the human error incidents, Hauser et al. (1998) indicate that crane operators, riggers, personnel in crane baskets/boats, and personnel not involved in crane operations can make errors, which cause significant damages to equipment/property and injuries/death to other people.
Furthermore, during the construction of Miller Stadium, an overloaded crane collapsed and killed three construction workers and injured five other workers. After investigations, three contractors were blamed for ignoring the safety measures proposed by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) by allowing workers to overload the crane, failing to clear workers from suspended sections, and allowing workers to lift heavy loads during windy conditions (Safety Online, 2000). This incident confirms the observations made by Hauser et al. (1998) in that the personnel not involved in crane operations can also make errors, which may cause major crane incidents. Overall, the U.S. Department of Labor (2005) notes that various human errors in crane operations are in direct violation of the OSHA standards and requirements. Here, human decisions, which entail OSHA violations, may include failure to consider wind during crane loading, lifting loads or workers during high winds, overloading the personnel platform on the crane, ignoring the manufacturer’s instructions regarding crane operations, exceeding the crane limits, and failing to clear workers from suspended loads. As a result, it is recommended that cranes should be inspected regularly to ensure that they are in good working conditions and minimize equipment failure especially after assembly or modification. Furthermore, only trained workers should be allowed to assemble, disassemble, or operate the cranes in the presence of qualified and competent supervisors to avoid human errors.